You have been there. Those weight loss posts on imgur, so amazing!! you can’t stop clicking through and bookmarking them and studying them obsessively. You log on everyday and search for magic cures that will help you get fitter. Your mind buzzes with words like paleo, keto, atkins. You have been a Fitbit customer since forever and you make your annual donation to the local gym religiously. You even know what Quinoa is!!!
That up there is me & most probably you. I have been doing that for years and it was starting to piss me off. I had already realized that increased physical activity did not reduce my weight because I ate more to compensate. I had realized that dieting of any kind put me in a bad mood and work suffered badly. I got myself some of the best running shoes out there and tried running to lose weight. But being 15 kg overweight running on asphalt is sheer agony. I hate running. I took to hiking and backpacking and while I gained a lot of lower body strength and stamina, my weight stayed firmly at the 95 Kg mark. I was seriously starting to doubt if cause-and-effect was a thing.
But I learnt and I made some subtle changes starting this Jan and in 3 months I find myself at 87kgs and a whole lot fitter. I am also confident that I will not fall off this time. I feel I have broken through and I must share how I did this.
My first realization was that the internet was a selection bias clusterfuck. There are very few failure stories and a ton of success stories. The people who I was trying to copy were the ones who made it and the millions who were unable to make a positive change were looking at these folks and trying to find inspiration from people who frankly are highly motivated and focused on their goals. This is not a state that I found myself in most time. I mean, sure I wanted to lose weight and get back in shape but being out of shape was not exactly uncomfortable either. I had to find a low energy and low commitment way to make a life change. That already seems like a recipe for failure. But I elected to ignore the internet success stories and go back to first principles and see if I could figure out a lazy way out of this.
Unfortunately, finding lazy ways is not a lazy task but I got lucky. I measured my weight on Jan 3 while recovering from the new year barbecue and bacchanalia. Staring at 95.8 mark I knew I was lost. However, A few days later I read a very well written post post by Kiran Jonnalagadda. I will admit it , there was nothing new from an information perspective in the post but it was well written and I was interested enough to read the follow up post on Sugar . This one was a hard hitter. This was the first principle that I had been missing all along. I knew all about keto and low carb but for some reason just did not have the motivation to actually make the change. But reading about Sugar and related carbs I figured I should give keto a shot. So no sugar, no rice, no wheat, no potato, fiber rich cruciferious, stir fried veggies it was ( yup! I am a vegetarian). It lasted 3 days before I found myself at dolally Bandra, drinking their excellent Cider and the mind-blowing house fries. ( I mean just look at those fries.. )
This was a huge setback, I knew what I needed to do and I was eating the one thing that I should absolutely avoid. Carbs are poison to me. Potatoes are evil…wait a min! Sitting there in a Bandra reclamation taproom, it struck me what was wrong. Abnegation. I was denying myself something that I absolutely loved. I was fighting the most primal urge. Find and eat carbs. No fucking way I was winning this fight. Raised on Parathas and Kheer and pakoras, I loved these things far too much. So I needed to co-opt my mind here. Over the next few days I realized a few things.
- If my brain was fighting against me for something I was always going to lose eventually.
- The brain can easily be fooled by partial rewards
So I decided to re-instate my morning chai with real sugar and for the rest of the day stuck to Diet Soda for caffeine. Added back a slight amount of rice with a lot of veggies on top and a lot of butter and olive oil to make the food really heavy. Started eating out of bowls instead of plates to do better portion control and voila!! it worked. First of all, sugar in the morning took away my crankiness and the extra fat in the food made me full faster so I ate less. The bowl let me figure out how much I was eating everyday and adjust the portions gradually as my body got used to the new diet. I also gave up on keto, it requires iron will and steely determination and too much science that I just did not have time for in, the daily routine. I decided that I will try to balance carbs and happiness when it come to the daily diet.
I knew it was working when I was still on the new diet, 30 days from the most excellent Cider and Fries apocalypse. I had already lost 3.5 kgs so far and feeling really good about it too. I had gradually eliminated rice completely and had not eaten wheat in a while.
Potatoes were a distant memory and I stopped eating all dal (60% carbs WTF!!) . I started buying fresh mozzarella from Bigbasket and adding that to the pan-charred and fried veggies and paneer that forms my dinner and lunch now. Grate in some cheddar and the umami bit is resolved. I checked out the excellent keto calculator at https://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/ and decided to compute my macro nutrients to aim for but did not follow them religiously. Keto is tough and a lazy beginner would always lose against such an regimen.
I did find myself deep in a trough of fries a few times but by now I was able to compensate by eating less other days and making allowances for such indulgences.
This is when I had the key realization : Calorie deficit works very well and is easy to maintain if you are eating very few carbs. 10k steps is enough exercise most days to get to a 300–400 kCal deficit a day. And given that you cannot overeat a low carb meal that is laced with oil and butter, portion control is almost guaranteed.
First week of April, I went backpacking to har-ki-dun for 5 days and after coming back found I had lost over 2 kgs in a week. Backpacking in the Himalayas is very strenuous and I accumulated quite the calorie deficit. I had not seen the scale show 87 kg for 10 years now.
This is my tale. I don’t feel like I am on a special diet, I don’t have the the stress of achieving a goal. I have made a necessary life change that is fulfilling and feels healthy in every way.